Trump is bulldozing hope for two states

Ben Reiff

Just when you think he couldn’t possibly get any more arrogant, ignorant, careless, mindless, insolent, deluded, self-righteous, moronic, reckless, imprudent…

Does he actively try to seek out the most provocative actions? Those with the most people telling him not to do? Just to prove that he doesn’t take orders from anybody?

It’s simply impossible to attribute any rationality to the man, after the leaders of the world have warned him against using Jerusalem as a political chess piece. A city of such historic and legendary significance to Jews, Muslims and Christians, Israelis and Palestinians. A city so volatile and fiercely contested that throughout the last hundred years the tiniest developments have sparked almighty violence and bloodshed. A city that people have died for, and a city that certainly hasn’t seen the last drop of spilled blood.

But for Donaldo it’s just another campaign pledge ticked off the list. Words on a page, not real people who face the very real consequences of his actions 6,000 miles away.

The days following Trump’s announcement have seen clashes erupt across Israel and the Palestinian territories, from Hebron to Ramallah, from Bethlehem to Khan Younis, and from Nazareth to Damascus Gate. Israel has mobilised its troops across the region, and security at American sites has been intensified for fear of targeted retaliatory attacks. There have been rocket attacks from Gaza, and Israeli counter-strikes. Hamas called for an intifada in defence of the freedom of Palestine and Jerusalem, and at the time of writing the Palestinian health ministry is already reporting 300 injuries and three deaths: Mohammed al-Masri, killed on Friday near Khan Younis, and two Hamas members reported killed on Saturday. If anything is inevitable in this Trump-induced crisis, it’s that there will be many more injuries and probably more deaths.

Maybe the embassy will stay where it is. Trump only told the press that he’s instructed the State Department to begin preparations for moving the embassy, which is not to say that the move will actually materialise. But the damage has already been done, and the repercussions will long outlive his presidency.

Israelis know their capital is in Jerusalem, and so does most of the world. The parliament is there, the government offices are there, and international diplomacy takes place there. But the world is happy to comply with the internationally agreed, UN-sanctioned position that Jerusalem is to be negotiated in final status talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The rest of the world has deemed this sensible and appropriate, and so has maintained this status by keeping their embassies in Tel Aviv and reasserting that Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, and continued expansion of settlements in that side of the city, is illegitimate and illegal under international law.

But to hell with the world, says Donaldo. To hell with the UN. To hell with 70 years of UN resolutions, and 50 years of US policy.

If he’s so eager to make the ultimate deal, to advance the cause of peace, there are plenty of other things he could have done, and statements he could have made. How about condemning violence by Israel and the Palestinians? How about condemning settlement construction and incitement? How about reaffirming America’s commitment to achieving a just and lasting peace in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolutions 181 and 194, and UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338, and 2334? How about acknowledging that, as well as the true capital of Israel, Jerusalem is also the true capital of Palestine?

He told the media that the US still supports a two-state solution if this is what the Israelis and the Palestinians desire, but his unilateral declaration does nothing to advance a two-state solution. What Trump fails to understand, and what all supporters of two states must understand, is that we have reached a point, with the complete absence of any peace process, whereby any action against a two-state solution serves to advance the wrongheaded cause of one state between the river and the sea. And that is exactly what this has done.

If the state that has assumed the role of peace-maker between Israel and Palestine is making unilateral, partisan moves, then Israelis on the right will take this as a green light to advance their expansionist agenda, which the world will reject and call instead for one democratic state. Palestinians, meanwhile, will read it as the final nail in the coffin of the peace process, and the trigger for the PLO to abandon its two-state position in favour of one state once again. After all, this is what the Palestinians have wanted for the last hundred years; they only gave up on it pragmatically in the hope of achieving their own state and an end to the conflict (and many, indeed, never gave up on it).

The UN Security Council convened an emergency meeting on Friday evening to discuss the situation and how to deal with the aftermath of Trump’s recklessness. I’m all ears as to their suggestions


Pride and Prejudice on Jerusalem Day March – But Mostly Prejudice

Ben Goldstein

Jerusalem has become my adopted home over the past few months. Its stones, its people, its diversity, its history and its raw energy combine to make it one of the most unique places on the planet. Weaving through its ancient streets and modern cafes listening to the cacophony of languages is an achingly beautiful way to spend an afternoon.

Yesterday afternoon, though, Jerusalem’s delicate splendour was fractured. I watched as a nationalist mob of thousands of juvenile testosterone-filled boys marched through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem. They were having a great day out, some with families, most with their classmates. There was singing, shouting, screaming, chanting. Flags were waved, held aloft and worn as scarves. The police kept a watchful eye on proceedings.

It felt awfully like an English Defence League demo or maybe a Trump rally, albeit with more kippot, more niggunim and far fewer muscles.

I was there helping to document the event, which has a history of racist rhetoric and violence. The organisation Ir Amim station volunteers along the route. It seemed like the presence of our cameras – and those of other left-wing organisations – had some tangible effect.

“Eugh, there are tonnes of smolanim [lefties] here,” pouted one boy.

“Right, so be on your best behaviour,” barked his elder.

Two 14-year olds wearing Israel flags then started bashing on the shutters of an Arab shop. Noticing us filming, their guardian grabbed them and moved them on, telling our cameras that, on this happy day, it doesn’t matter that we are lefties, and that G-d loves us anyway. (Thanks!).

Meanwhile, a cute family were posing for a photograph. They smiled as they basked in the joy of the Jewish conquest of Jerusalem 49 years ago. Their backdrop? A shuttered Palestinian coffee shop. It was an almost comically perfect portrait of the dual realities that coexist in space and time in this city.

Racism is embedded in the march itself: could you imagine the Israeli police shutting down the Jewish Quarter for a Naqba Day march replete with Palestinian flags and Hamas propaganda? The state, while seeking to manage and minimise the damage, effectively supports a march which requires Palestinians to be cleared out of their neighbourhood and kept behind army barricades for their own security. There is no reason at all for the march not to happen in the Jewish area of the Old City (incidentally, where most of the seminary girls march). The only reason it happens here is as a muscular demonstration of Jewish power over Palestinians. It’s the very definition of state-endorsed racism.

At one point, an Arab woman in a wheelchair braved the crowd, pushed along by her elderly husband. We got our cameras out, expecting the worst. But the marching boys made space for her, shouting at each other to create a channel through which the pair could travel. This woman’s vulnerability seemed to wash out the drug of religious-infused ultra-nationalism, and, for a moment, the boys stopped being threatening marchers and became boys again. I don’t know whether that’s hopeful or just painfully sad.

The meshuganas continued for a couple of hours. I spotted the largely-French group from my MASA programme in the crowd with our madrich (leader) – despite his promise that they would not be marching through the Muslim Quarter. They shouted over to me, their euphoria clearly obscuring the fairly obvious fact that I was one of the spoil-sport smolanim ruining the fun.

After the march finished and the garbage-filled streets slowly returned to an eerie silence, what remained were the stickers. The day ended with the Muslim Quarter literally plastered with Jewish nationalist angst in the form of hateful slogans: “Transfer [Arabs] now!”; “The daughters of Israel for the nation of Israel!”; “Free the Temple Mount”.

We began to pick them off the walls, climbing on each other’s shoulders to reach the high ones, which earnt some chuckles from the Palestinians returning to their shops. The police helped out, as did the Essex-born Israeli cameraman from the Israeli news channel Arutz 2. We made to leave the Old City and we all agreed to exit via the Damascus Gate. Here we were – a group of Jews and Israelis, living in this place and deeply committed to its future – and we didn’t want to step foot in the Jewish Quarter. So much for United Jerusalem.

A version of this post first appeared on the All That’s Left Collective website.